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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  WHUT  July 23, 2012 7:30am-8:00am EDT

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coming up -- the spreading popularity of meditation to schools, corporations and even the united states capitol. and a desert monastery in the remote mountains of syria. before the violence, it was a center for pilgrimage and interfaith dialogue. >> plus, as the holy month of ramadan begins, reciting the entire koran by heart, more than 6,000 verses. major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private
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family foundation, dedicated to its founders and christian religion, community development and education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement product. that's why we're your retirement company. the estate of william j. carter. the jane henson foundation and corporation for public broadcasting. welcome. i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. religious groups are among those expressing sorrow and outrage over the shooting massacre at a colorado movie theater on friday. president obama called for a day of prayer and reflection for the victims and their families. in other news, as the international community continued to wrestle over a response to the growing violence in syria, religious leaders intensified their calls for more humanitarian aid and an end to the crisis.
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a catholic archbishop inside syria urged world leaders to "speak with one voice" in order to bring about peace. meanwhile, the united nations says the number of syrian refugees has nearly tripled since april to more than 100,000. u.s. civil rights groups this week filed a federal lawsuit challenging an unmanned drone attack that killed three american citizens in yemen last october. extremist cleric an war al awlaki, his son and samir khan, a propagandist for al qaeda were all killed in the american drone strike. the u.s. says the mission was part of the war against terror. but the civil rights groups say these were targeted assassinations of u.s. citizens, and therefore, a violation of the constitution and international law. the world's more than 1.5 billion muslims have begun
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observing the holy month of ramadan when they fast every day from dawn to sunset and offer special prayers and gifts to the poor. but what about muslim athletes at the olympic games, which are set to open in london this coming week? should they participate in the fast? if they do, will it affect their performance? kim lawton reports. muslims observing the month-long ramadan fast are not allowed to eat or drink anything at all, even water, from sunrise to sunset. all muslims who are able to do so are supposed to fast, but the koran does allow for some exceptions. >> there are verses in the koran that talk about people who are sick or people who are traveling. so within that period of travel or people who are sick, they are actually exempted from fasting. many muslim olympians believe they come under travelers' exemption. judo champion maher abu rmeileh
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is the first palestine to qualify for the olympics. he says, "we asked religious scholars and they said that if we're out on a mission like this, out on a national mission, there is no problem with not fasting, on the condition that when you return, you fast the days you lost because fasting, like prayer, is obligatory." >> religious scholars have said there are several ways muslims can make up for not fasting during ramadan. >> you know, if you are able to fast on different days, you are able to do that. if you are not, you can also pay a kind of charity instead of fasting. >> mohammed sbihi on the british rowing team says he's decided not to fast this year. >> the decision was made very early on that i shouldn't fast. it was a personal decision that i made between myself and my family and then i informed the coaches of this. >> instead, sbihi says he'll be making extra donations to needy families. still, many other athletes say they will observe the ramadan fast, and they're not concerned
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about how it may affect their performance. in 2008, saudi paraolympic triple jumper ossemah masoud alshinqiti fasted and he won the gold medal. he says, you can play while you are fasting without any problems. and some muslim olympians are hopeful they may even get a special ramadan blessing for doing so. i'm kim lawton reporting. >> an estimated 3,000 muslims will be competing in the olympics, but no american muslims at this time. in other news, faith groups are raising concerns that the country's widespread drought will drive up food costs, which will especially hurt the poor. more than half the u.s. is now facing some degree of drought, the worst conditions in 25 years. much of the country's soybean and corn crop has been affected. several houses of worship are praying for rain.
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we have a story today about the spreading popularity of the many kinds of meditation, the ancient practice of sitting quietly, concentrating on the breath and just being present. in the u.s. in recent years, mindfulness meditation has become a mainstream stress reducer, widely recommended, as lucky severson reports, even by a member of congress. you hear athletes talking about being in the zone. what does that mean? does anyone know what that means? >> ohio democrat congressman tim ryan,s talking with kids on capitol hill about his favorite subject, mindfulness, what he sees as the result from meditation, not a typical washington fixation. ryan believes everyone would benefit from the practice, individually, in congress and as a country. he says it's what he needed. >> the pace was getting so demanding, between the
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fund-raising and the campaigning and it was just -- i was to the point where i thought, i'm 35. if i keep this trajectory, i'm going to be turned out by the time i'm 40. >> congressman ryan has written a book called "a mindful nation." and now with the conviction of a missionary, he's peddling its message to anyone who will listen. >> by being in the present moment, by taking that deep breath like you're shooting a foul shot then you can approach your life in a way you actually have control of what you're doing. >> ryan meditates daily before he comes to work. he says it's a matter of sitting quietly and focusing on that very moment. >> i find that starting the day with a little bit of quiet time changes the whole complexion of the rest of the day. it's almost like warming up before you go into an athletic event. but the key is you can do it anywhere. >> he thinks it's a practice needed now more than ever. look around, he says, at the hectic and chaotic world we live in.
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>> i think everyone's right there on the edge looking for something to help them deal with 24-hour news, information overload, texts, e-mails, always on the job. people are looking for something to help them deal with that. >> congressman ryan says contrary to what some believe, it's not necessary to be a buddhist to meditate. he's a lifelong catholic. >> i think mindfulness, by grounding you in the present moment, can actually enrich whatever religion you participate. you don't have to believe anything. you don't have to accept certain precepts or principles. you just basically need to practice being in the present moment and then you can take that to whatever religion you practice. >> there's no separation between life and meditation practice, and when the meditation and life become the same thing in a sense, we light up and become more alive.
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>> congressman ryan says it was a retreat like this that "rocked his world." those are his words. a retreat at the omega institute in upstate new york, where people come from all over the world to hear jon kabat-zinn teach on mindfulness. he's an m.i.t. trained molecular biologist who founded the stress reduction clinic at the university of massachusetts medical center 33 years ago. he says there's nothing complicated about the practice of meditation or mindfulness. >> the way idea fine it is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally. so in a sense the cultivation of mindfulness is object serving how mindless you are almost all the time. certainly true for me. i mean, the mind goes off and then with awareness, you bring it back. >> this is darrius douglas. he started meditating about ten years ago when he was in fifth grade. now he can slide into it almost
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instantly, even with a camera staring at him. >> it gives you a quiet place inside of yourself, whereas though you don't have to feed and react off of the things that's going around in the environment around you. >> darrius learned how to meditate in a program started in some public schools in baltimore by the holistic life foundation ten years ago. the program was created by brothers atman and ali smith and andy gonzalez. >> darrius in the fifth grade, he's probably one of the toughest kids i ever met in my life. he settled everything with his fists and then at some point, it just clicked with him where he just decided that he was going to try something else. >> ali and his brother atman learned meditation from their parents. they thought it, along with yoga, might do some good in some of west baltimore's toughest neighborhoods. >> we were kind of skeptical ourselves when we first started. i mean, because we know how the yoga and the meditation and stuff were affecting us and we thought it might work with kids. >> the levels of stress down in the, you know, elementary school
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are colossal. the fact that the digital age is upon us and the children that are being born now have never experienced analog life, and you know, are almost being born with these electronic devices that are very seductive and very addictive and distracting. >> they first started off fighting and, you know, doing the wrestlemania things, rolling up the mats, beating each other with the mats instead of sitting down and practicing the yoga, and you know, within time, the fights in the, in the yoga room went down a lot -- the amount of times that they were getting in trouble during the course of a day went down. the teachers would come and talk to us and tell us, like, man, whatever you're doing, keep doing it. >> the principal sends some of the best and some of the most troublesome students to the meditation classes. taaliyah and keon, each 10 years old, seem to think the classes at coleman middle school have helped them become better students. >> because i usually be yelling and stuff, but now i take the yoga class and i don't yell.
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>> are you doing better in school? >> yes. >> how? >> paying attention, doing my work, not talking, not fussing, not fighting. >> i'll pull two kids apart from fighting and i'll tell them, put your hand on your heart. and they can feel it beating out of their chest, you know, and i say, start taking some deep breaths. you know how to do it. sometimes it may not work immediately, you know, but they do know the cues as long as you keep telling them, take your breath, don't forget to take your breath. >> with congressman ryan's encouragement, some public schools in his home state of ohio have started meditation classes. >> and i see these kids, my god, they have hope. they all of a sudden, boom, have hope because you've taught them the most essential skill they need to live, and that's to be aware of their own emotional state and to be able to cultivate in some way their own ability to pay attention. >> if the congressman had written a book on mindfulness
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ten years ago, he says there likely wouldn't have been much interest, but these days everyone is doing it. >> the united states marine corps is doing it. google, proctor and gamble, general mills, target, phil jackson the great basketball coach used this technique with the chicago bulls. >> one reason meditation is becoming more mainstream is because of reliable and consistent research by people like jon kabat-zinn that show that it works. >> even short periods of training and mindfulness can actually change the thickness and the size of certain aspects of the brain that are important for dealing with stress, for working memory, for keeping things in mind that you need to know in order to solve problems. >> congressman ryan thinks mindful meditation would improve the low level of civility on capitol hill. >> you'll be more aware of what you say and what you don't say. and that's the whole thing with
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the practice is that you begin to respond to things as opposed to react to things. if we responded to problems as opposed to reacting to problems, it would shift the direction of the country. >> in all asian languages, it's said that the word for mind and the word for heart is the same word. so if you're hearing the word mindfulness and you're not in some way having a kind of simultaneous hearing of it as heartfulness, you're not actually, really understanding it. so compassion and mindfulness are like two wings of the same bird. >> once you kind of like tap into that inner peace, that inner beauty inside of yourselves, you will be more empathic. you will want to help everybody out. you will want to, you know, just give and not look for anything in return, just give because you know it's the right thing to do and, you know, that is what's missing in this world. >> congressman ryan says he has been stunned by how many members of congress, from both sides of the aisle, have told him they
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need stress relief, which should come as no surprise to the millions of stressed-out americans. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson in washington. the spiralling violence in syria has affected all areas of life there, including religious life. the syrian desert monastery deir mar musa, north of damascus, was once a center of pilgrimage and interfaith dialogue, but the catholic priest who leads the monastery was expelled from syria last month, and the future of his ministry is uncertain. fred de sam lazaro visited before the violence exploded and has our report about deir mar musa and the work once done there. so this is where st. moses
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the abyssinian actually prayed? >> yes. this is his house. >> about three decades ago, father paolo dall'oglio happened upon these caves about 60 miles north of syria's capital damascus. it was in these remote mountains that a group of monks from ethiopia first made a hermitage back in the 6th century a.d. >> you see this is one of the grottos of the ancient hermits in this mountain. now here we have formed this place in a chapel. >> back in 1982, this italian jesuit, then 28, was studying arabic in neighboring lebanon when he hiked up to this spot for a retreat, a retreat he had to extend because of a serious fall. >> there was no way out, so i stayed here one week with my broken leg. >> he did find the stamina to explore the area and ruins of the long-forgotten monastery. it had been used for centuries
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before being abandoned in the late 1800s. >> i have found really what i was looking for. >> dall'oglio was seeking a moon assic life and he got permission from the local church authorities to rebuild and revive this monastery. his first task was to put a roof on this church built in the 11th century itself on the ruins of a roman castle. >> i came at night. then i came inside this church. there was no roof so there was an incredible roof of stars. >> it took years and a bit more than half a million dollars, mostly from european church and individual donors to restore these almost 1,000-year-old images or those that could be restored. worship services use a rite of the syriac catholic church, one of the several eastern christian traditions. >> here in the name of the lord,
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asking for peace, brotherhood and extending consideration, respect, harmony. >> traditional as the service is, dall'oglio is driven by what he calls a practical theology reaching out and building bridges to the islamic community, the vast majority of their neighbors. judahism and christianity predated islam in this ancient land, but today very few jews remain in syria and christians account for just 10% of this country's population. on the eastern wall of the church, facing the muslim holy city of mecca, the arabic symbol allah. christian monasteries were protected as holy places by the prophet muhammad, dall'oglio says. and this one harkens back to a tradition he calls abrahamic hospitality. >> these people have been in the same villages working with the same people for 14 centuries. we are together in front of god and recognize each other as
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believers. in the islamic town, these muslim, christian and jewish, they worship god in a kind of choir. >> father paolo encourages visits from the dialogue with muslims, many of whom joined christian visitors in the climb up 347 stairs to the monastery. some like scholar atas gomul, exploring aspects of islam's relationship with judahism and christianity stay for a while to conduct research in the growing library. >> i was surprised to find so many books about islam in a christian monastery. i think it is very good to have a dialogue between the religions, to respect each other and to love one another. politics always seems to take precedence over religious dialogue. >> father paolo has big plans to continue the dialogue. he's expanding guest facilities and building a new conference center including, he adds, an access road that will allow
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those unable to make the long hike to visit. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," this is fred de sam lazaro at the deir musa monastery in syria. >> in exile, father dall'oglio has become a strong international advocate for peace in syria. he hopes to return and resume his ministry as soon as possible. during this holy month of ramadan, muslims are expected not only to fast and worship and to give to the poor, but also to read and listen to the entire koran, which some can recite from memory, more than 6,000 verses. we spoke with dr. mohammed farooq, the president of the islamic center of northern virginia and sheik mohammed alraee, from saudi arabia about the spiritual blessings of reciting and hearing the koran.
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>> when you are reciting the koran, you feel that you are talking to allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, the creator and you feel uplifted spiritually, not only the reciter, also the people who are listening as well. for each letter you get ten blessings. when you listen to the koran, you are getting the same number of blessings as if you were the reciter.
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it is god's gift. i don't believe that i could memorize this big book just on my own. it is from god. >> when you have someone who is reciting in a sweet voice, then you are listening, something which will impact your heart because, as we believe, words of koran is from god. when he recites, i feel like that i have sometimes goosebumps, sometimes i am overjoyed, sometimes i am literally crying, that it's so powerful.
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we recite the koran that we can understand what we are supposed to do, what god has given us the commands, what he's saying to us and how we have to spend our life. if we understand koran, then the chances are that we are going to do the exact same thing which god is asking us. we are being judged that what we have done if there is something against god, he can forgive us. if we asked for the forgiveness. in islam, we have the concept if you have done something wrong against any human being, you need to go back to that human being, you have to ask the
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forgiveness. a just society is the biggest blessing, and the koran is saying again and again in many ways that a just society is needed. >> toward the end of ramadan, you feel sad that the blessing you were in you are going to be ending soon. >> this is such a blessing that we are able to finish. god has given us the chance to read the whole thing, and we try to remember the whole thing during the next coming year.
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finally, part of the aids memorial quilt arrived in washington's national cathedral this week. the quilt, now 25 years old, is too large to be displayed in one place. several panels are currently rat the cathedral, including one that came from st. george's cathedral in south africa, wher the cathedral, including one that came from st. george's cathedral in south africa, where it was blessed by archbishop desmond tutu. there was another special blessing for the quilt in washington on wednesday. >> that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us any time on smart phones. there's always much more on our website, as well, including an audio-guided meditation by jon kabat-zinn. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at as we leave you, more scenes of the aids memorial quilt at
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washington's national cathedral. major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private foundation dedicated to its founders interests in religion, dedicated to education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. the estate of william j. carter. the jane henson foundation. and the corporation for public broadcasting.
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